D&D General What's wrong with Perception?

tetrasodium

Legend
Supporter
The problem is, if someone says "I look around the room" and I say "roll Perception", and they fail to hit the DC, they rarely say "I keep looking!". They assume that there's nothing to be found.
That is why dungeons tended to be wildly overstocked. It was assumed that something like 30-60% of the stuff would go unfound. That allowed players do do ok without needing to worry about the one thing they needed to find
 

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DND_Reborn

Legend
The problem is, if someone says "I look around the room" and I say "roll Perception", and they fail to hit the DC, they rarely say "I keep looking!". They assume that there's nothing to be found.
Experiences differ I suppose. In my games, often at least half the party is all "looking around the room" and I have them all roll checks, using the highest (in general). If multiple things could be found, the next highest roll is used, etc.

I've found it works well for me, while sometimes keep the high DCs not found, but sometimes also found.

And really, if they did otherwise, then you'd be spending way more time investigating rooms, slowing the game down. And if all it takes it 10 times the time to always succeed on finding things, then why are we rolling unless there's a serious chance of failing an adventure goal or getting distracted by wandering monsters?
Well, what are the others doing while the first is investigating? I just run it they are all investigation different areas at different times...

And if they can afford to take 10 times the amount of time, why not? Otherwise, yes, time crunch and wandering monsters could be a concern. IMO, 10 times shouldn't be auto-success anyway--personally, I never use it.

As for multiple people being able to roll, it depends. In the Sunless Citadel example, I snipped out a few instances of "if players do X, then they can roll a Perception check". Now maybe adventures shouldn't be written that way, but if they are, it's highly unlikely each player, in turn, is going to decide to look at a particular feature, or make the same action that would trigger the roll, so it's not always a group exercise either.
Well, I suppose this just depends on the adventure and game style. For example, in a room I might have a statue, a chest, a bookcase, and a section of wall that it seems should hold a secret passage maybe. Each PC will pick an area to check and roll, then move to the next, etc. in the narrative. Now, to make the rolling easier, I just have them all roll for each thing at the same time, knowing in the game they are actually shifting positions each time.
 

James Gasik

Legend
Supporter
Experiences differ I suppose. In my games, often at least half the party is all "looking around the room" and I have them all roll checks, using the highest (in general). If multiple things could be found, the next highest roll is used, etc.

I've found it works well for me, while sometimes keep the high DCs not found, but sometimes also found.


Well, what are the others doing while the first is investigating? I just run it they are all investigation different areas at different times...

And if they can afford to take 10 times the amount of time, why not? Otherwise, yes, time crunch and wandering monsters could be a concern. IMO, 10 times shouldn't be auto-success anyway--personally, I never use it.


Well, I suppose this just depends on the adventure and game style. For example, in a room I might have a statue, a chest, a bookcase, and a section of wall that it seems should hold a secret passage maybe. Each PC will pick an area to check and roll, then move to the next, etc. in the narrative. Now, to make the rolling easier, I just have them all roll for each thing at the same time, knowing in the game they are actually shifting positions each time.
It's a fair way to run things, and usually how I do things when I write my own adventures. But sometimes other people's adventures seem very particular about when you can make checks.

I myself also allow the Help action and don't mind guidance being used for investigation, but I know other DM's are very averse to this sort of thing.
 

DND_Reborn

Legend
But sometimes other people's adventures seem very particular about when you can make checks.
They're guidelines, not rules. :D

If they're guidelines don't work for my DM style (like much of WotC's published adventures), I do it my way.

I myself also allow the Help action and don't mind guidance being used for investigation, but I know other DM's are very averse to this sort of thing.
I run Help requires proficiency OR the DC can't be higher than 20. If you have proficiency, the DC doesn't matter.

We limit guidance to once per long rest per PC, otherwise I've found it gets spammed way too much.
 

I wonder – and I don't know, cause I'm mainly a GM and haven't asked any players this – is the reason for favoring Perception proficiency is due to a perception that the consequences of failing Perception are more grievous / more lethal / more immediately obviously bad than other skills?

I suspect you're exactly correct, and further more that in many if not all cases, its not just perception. Its just as true, as I've noted, in most RPGs; the only question is whether Perception is covered by one or more skills, some kind of a trait, or exactly what. But whatever it is, to the degree it can be attended to without crippling the character in more central ways, its usually a priority.
 

Bill Zebub

“It’s probably Matt Mercer’s fault.”
A company that actually wanted to make a good game that wouldn't unnecessary frustrate people would provide solid rules and levels of complexity to suit that broad base they want. What we have now is lazy design that's not going to get better because enough people don't care for them to feel they don't have to bother.

You think it’s possible to design a game that wouldn’t frustrate some portion of potential players?

I’m 100% with @Benjamin Olson on this. Sure, there are places where I personally would like more complexity, but I teach a lot of beginners how to play and 5e nails it.

It’s not “lazy” design it just makes no attempt to appease the kind of long time alpha gamer who thrives on system mastery.
 

I'm not very familiar with the D&D 5th edition skill system (and my familiarity with the Pathfinder one is probably a drawback here), but what do you do if the monsters are trying to ambush the party, or somebody is using sleight of hand (either directly against them, or to quietly draw a weapon etc.)?

Seems like you'd need some sort of Perception score to compete against, unless you just have a static DC.
Sure, but Perception is used constantly to detect all sorts of things, not just ambushes. My issue isn't "Perception exists", my issue is "Perception is wildly overused".

A good example of overuse is listening at the door or the like - if you listen at a door and some orcs are on the other side, having a conversation, you should hear them. No roll. No perception check. Your ears function. And RAW/RAI I think that's fine, but a lot of DMs, and a lot of adventures (including WotC ones) don't do that - they just have endless Perception DCs and Investigate DCs, and want you to roll them (or passively pass them).

Also loads of games have operated with a static DC, or no specialised Perception skill or trait and been just fine.
 

Bill Zebub

“It’s probably Matt Mercer’s fault.”
Experiences differ I suppose. In my games, often at least half the party is all "looking around the room" and I have them all roll checks, using the highest (in general). If multiple things could be found, the next highest roll is used, etc.

One non-official technique I often use is to have everybody roll, and highest roll is the one who spots whatever it is, and gets to react first.
 

glass

(he, him)
I feel Perception (and Athletics) should promote to full abilities, alongside Strength and Intelligence.
Perception I agree with, but Athletics? Maybe if it replaced Strength. Otherwise the last thing Strength needs is more things taken away from it!

Their experience with 5E players perfectly matches my experience with 5E players. I’ve had players rage quit over taking one point of damage.
I think you're rather unfairly painting "5e players" with a very broad brush there.

_
glass.
 
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Their experience with 5E players perfectly matches my experience with 5E players. I’ve had players rage quit over taking one point of damage. They will nova and long rest before every fight if given the chance. It might not match your experiences, but I can’t call it hyperbole.
I mean, I had 2E players ragequit (at least temporarily) over taking one point of of damage. And it was common to see people play like this in 3E. So I'm not sure this is edition-specific, except in that 4E didn't have it because you simply couldn't play 4E that way effectively.
 



amethal

Adventurer
A good example of overuse is listening at the door or the like - if you listen at a door and some orcs are on the other side, having a conversation, you should hear them. No roll. No perception check. Your ears function. And RAW/RAI I think that's fine, but a lot of DMs, and a lot of adventures (including WotC ones) don't do that - they just have endless Perception DCs and Investigate DCs, and want you to roll them (or passively pass them).
I appreciate it's just an example, but in my case I'd say they automatically hear humanoids talking in rough voices from the other side of the door, but a decent Perception check would enable them to identify the language as Orcish, allow them to understand what was being said (if they speak Orcish and the conversation was interesting, which it probably isn't) and, with a good roll they'd identify that there are at least 4 creatures taking part in the conversation.

I suppose you could say straight away "You can hear voices" and wait for someone to ask for more details before you call for a Perception check but since, in my games, someone always does I find it saves time to ask for the check anyway.

(Also, the request to roll the dice encourages my players to stop chatting amongst themselves and actually pay attention to the ostensible reason we have gathered together, but YMMV.)
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
For example, DC 20 is 5%, so lets say your 1st level party has the following modifiers for a Wisdom (Perception) check: +3, +0, +1, +4

That means you need to roll a 17 or a 20 or a 19 or a 16. The odds of them all failing is just over 50%.
In my experience, they aren't going to be rolling individually. The +0 and +1 will be helping the +3 and +4, resulting in 4 rolls still, but 2 at +3 and 2 and +4 due to advantage. What are the odds of failure then?
 

I appreciate it's just an example, but in my case I'd say they automatically hear humanoids talking in rough voices from the other side of the door, but a decent Perception check would enable them to identify the language as Orcish, allow them to understand what was being said (if they speak Orcish and the conversation was interesting, which it probably isn't) and, with a good roll they'd identify that there are at least 4 creatures taking part in the conversation.
I think this kind of furthers my point though.

Either your ears work or they don't, IRL (at least in my pretty long lived experience - and I have serious ADHD which means I have worse sensory issues than most people), in a static situation like listening at a door. They don't vary in success in a way that RNG reflects. If I am familiar with orcish, it shouldn't be a perception check to identify it, if I can hear the words, I know what language it is, period. If I can't hear the words, or I'm not familiar with orcish, I don't. External factors (like if people are making noise on my side of the door) may impact it, but it shouldn't really be a roll.

Now let's be clear, part of the problem is the skill design itself, that says: "It measures your general awareness of your surroundings and the keenness of your senses.". That's bad design, frankly. That incredibly overbroad description which encompasses both like, how good hearing and eyesight is, how aware you are generally, and a million other factors is why so many DMs (and adventure designers) call for constant Perception checks. The problem isn't with the DMs or adventure writers - it's with the design of the skill. I'm not saying you're doing it wrong (though I would rephrase the "identify it as orcish" to "hear the words" and then go from the character's backstory - if they have a background where they'll never have heard orcish then no amount of high rolls will let them identify it, though they might be able to repeat the phonemes and have another PC identify it), just that the skill is badly designed.

Even with that, it doesn't seem like this should be rolled - it seems like it should be a passive Perception comparison. I mean, what even is "rolling low on Perception"? Getting distracted? That's simply completely implausible in a lot of scenarios. Equally "rolling high", what exactly is that representing? We can come up with examples but a lot of them are implausible in a lot of scenarios, maybe all of them are in some scenarios - or they just reflect how over-broadly designed it is.

It's also worth noting Take 10 and Take 20 would eliminate some of the weirder issues with Perception (and a bunch of other 5E skills), but 5E doesn't allow for those, and I don't think even suggests them as optional rules (though correct me if I'm wrong).
 

amethal

Adventurer
I think this kind of furthers my point though.

Either your ears work or they don't, IRL (at least in my pretty long lived experience - and I have serious ADHD which means I have worse sensory issues than most people), in a static situation like listening at a door. They don't vary in success in a way that RNG reflects. If I am familiar with orcish, it shouldn't be a perception check to identify it, if I can hear the words, I know what language it is, period. If I can't hear the words, or I'm not familiar with orcish, I don't. External factors (like if people are making noise on my side of the door) may impact it, but it shouldn't really be a roll.
Thanks, I finally understand your point - sorry it has taken me so long!

However, given that Perception is a skill in the game, it's understandable that people are going to want to roll for it.

Having purely passive perception could be seen as less fun - either you automatically find it, or you automatically miss it. and since the DM setting the difficulty also knows what the passive scores are, the DM is basically deciding in advance if the party succeeds or fails.

There are plenty of game mechanics that don't make any sense from a real world perspective - e.g. the Fortitude saves in D&D 3.x / Pathfinder to "shrug off" the consequences of drinking poison - but are needed in the game ("you unknowingly drunk poisoned wine, and now you are dead, no save" being very much not-fun.)
 

billd91

Hobbit on Quest (he/him)
I appreciate it's just an example, but in my case I'd say they automatically hear humanoids talking in rough voices from the other side of the door, but a decent Perception check would enable them to identify the language as Orcish, allow them to understand what was being said (if they speak Orcish and the conversation was interesting, which it probably isn't) and, with a good roll they'd identify that there are at least 4 creatures taking part in the conversation.

I suppose you could say straight away "You can hear voices" and wait for someone to ask for more details before you call for a Perception check but since, in my games, someone always does I find it saves time to ask for the check anyway.

(Also, the request to roll the dice encourages my players to stop chatting amongst themselves and actually pay attention to the ostensible reason we have gathered together, but YMMV.)
There's nothing at all wrong with considering a base-level DC imparting some information with more information being accessible with higher DCs. For example: Hearing voices at conversation level through a door may be pretty easy. Add 2 to the DC to hear well enough to identify the language as orcish. Add 2 more to pick out 4 distinct voices in the room.
A lot of people just look at attribute/skill checks as being binary and for any particular DC that may be true. But they don't have to be just looked at with a single possible result when you can easily treat it as a series of results that can define multiple degrees of success.
 


DND_Reborn

Legend
In my experience, they aren't going to be rolling individually. The +0 and +1 will be helping the +3 and +4, resulting in 4 rolls still, but 2 at +3 and 2 and +4 due to advantage. What are the odds of failure then?
Even less. ;)

About 31% if my down-and-dirty math is correct. I'll verify after supper when I have more time.

Double-checked: 36% actually.
 
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You can treat it that way, yes, but by default, that's not how the game presents it's checks. If degrees of success was a default, I thin it would be immensely helpful.
What's really sad is the DMG has a whole pile of vague thoughts about how to run checks as less binary, but they're all presented as "at the DM's whim they might", and all in a few paragraphs of poorly-organised text deep in the DMG. They should have been at least conceptually laid out in the PHB.
 

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